China science

How old do you think you are? Chinese researchers create test for ‘biological’ age

People age at different rates, but scientists say a urine test gives an accurate result and it could help predict patients’ risk of age-related diseases

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 11:19pm

Chinese researchers say they have come up with a simple way to find out a person’s biological age – how much the body has aged physically – through a urine test.

Their findings will help researchers conduct large-scale ageing studies and even predict a person’s risk of age-related diseases, according to a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience.

A joint paper by researchers at the Beijing Hospital and the West China Hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan province, said on Tuesday that people aged at different rates due to variations in their genetic make-up and their environment.

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Chronological age – which is based on one’s birth date – was an imprecise measure of biological age so a more precise method was needed, the team said.

Ageing is driven by the lifelong gradual accumulation of a broad variety of molecular faults in the body’s cells and tissue.

The team said they had identified a substance – 8-oxoGsn – that indicated increases in oxidative damage in urine as people’s bodies aged.

The substance is a by-product of the oxidation of RNA, an essential molecule that interacts with DNA.

Cai Jianping, a co-author at the Beijing Hospital, was quoted by the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua as saying: “As we age, we suffer increasing oxidative damage and so the levels of oxidative markers increase in our body.”

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The team tested the levels of 8-oxoGsn in urine samples from 1,228 Chinese people aged two to 90 and concluded the marker helped accurately determine the stage of biological ageing in adults.

They had previously found that 8-oxoGsn levels also increased with age in the urine of animals such as mice.

The team has also developed a rapid analysis technique called ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography, which can process up to 10 urine samples an hour, according to the study.

This could be useful in large-scale studies into ageing.